A Commentary by Doug Draper
There may be a good number of you out there who don’t care all that much for the New Democratic Party’s Ontario leader Andrea Horwath. But let’s give her a bit of credit for one thing.At least Horwath, the province’s NDP leader, showed a wee bit of courage earlier this month to walk over to the pool and stick a toe in the water, didn’t she? And oh, wasn’t the water in that pool too cold for too many other politicians? Wasn’t it?
The water I am talking about is the province’s ability to charge income taxes – a form of tax based on people’s ability to pay. And yes, that is one heck of a lot to ask anyone to do these days – to contribute, based on their ability to pay, to a pool of tax money for essential services like health care, education, policing and so on.
I would dare Tim Hudak, Ontario’s Progressive Conservative leader and an MPP representing residents in the Niagara area, or Jim Bradley, a cabinet minister with Ontario’s Liberal government and an MPP for St. Catharines, to ask Ontario residents of means to pay a little bit more in income taxes. So far, it looks like it is not going to happen. A politician, anywhere in this province, let along this planet, asking people to pay a bit more in income taxes – however much income they make – is political poison these days.
Yet Horwath, to her credit, is the first politician in this province for more than a decade and a half to ask Ontario residents to do that. And all she is asking the minority Liberal government of Dalton McGuinty to accept in its final budget for this year is an income tax increase for people making more than $500,000 per year. Is that asking too bloody much?
Apparently not, for at least a few of the doctors in the province. We might think that doctors would be the first to support policies that cut income taxes, but at least a hundred or two of the province’s doctors in this province, calling themselves ‘Doctors for Fair Taxation’, are urging the McGuinty government to go even further than Horwath. They are asking the government to consider increasing income taxes for those making an income down to $100,000.
Doctors for Fair Taxation, an organization representing medical physicians in the province, is asking the McGuinty overnment to fight the province’s $16-billion deficit and help collect revenue for necessary public services at the same time by hiking income taxes on individuals making more than $100,000 a year.
“I think our position is just ultra reasonable,” Dr. Michael Rachlis, a medical physician and spokesperson for Doctors for Fair Taxation told me in a recent interview. Rachlis added that all his organization is asking for is that a doctor or anyone else with a taxable income around $170,000 per year pay an extra roughly $1,400 in taxes to help cover the cost of essential services in the province.
“I think we can do that because it is a moral question,” said Rachlis. “Because the inequality in Canada is getting wider” when it comes to people at the higher and lower ends of the income spectrum.
Around the same time as some Ontario physicians have done their thing, a group called Lawyers for Fair Taxation has done the same thing. They too feel lawyers should pay their fair share.
And why shouldn’t they?
Why shouldn’t doctors and lawyers, along with teachers and police and firefighters and othes, for that matter, want to pay their fair share of taxes to pay for the services we need? Why not openly go to the governments in power and say they are willing to do so.
For some three decades now, going back to the Reagan era in the United States and Thatcher era in England, not to mention the Malroney era in Canada – we have been told over and over again that what we need are tax cuts. They are the only way to make our lives prosperous. Yet what have we seen ever since?
There is no way we can have tax cuts without also suffering service cuts. That is just the way it is. I sometimes wish, although it will never happen, that we can go to those among us who have voted or tax cuts and say; ‘Well, alright. If you want a tax cut, what services that you use and need directly, whether that mean health care, education, policing and so on, would you be willing to cut. Don’t tell me about cutting services you don’t use. Tell me what services you use and need that you would be willing to see cut.’
I think if you went to people with that question, they may be far more likely to say they are willing to cut anything.
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